Hollywood’s portrayal of numerical computation

Dear NA friends,

I don’t normally sink so low as to send you an image from a movie, but this is irresistible. Kate and I just saw The Martian, in which Matt Damon is stuck on Mars and likely to die. But then the very cool young JPL astrophysicist genius Rich Purnell has the idea of slingshotting a spacecraft around Earth and back to Mars at great speed. Will it work? Cool young Purnell goes to the computer to run the math. He presses Enter, waits a tense moment, and then in one of the film’s big dramatic moments, gets this response on the screen,


Isn’t this delicious? It’s not every day that Hollywood shows the world the excitement of numerical computation.

[16 May 2016]